Crowd Funding Can Contribute to Health IT Development

For Christmas my husband wanted to buy me a Pebble Watch. I politely declined. Actually I said, “That’s too much to spend on me this year. And besides, I don’t want to be connected to my email, Twitter and Facebook all day long.”

Pebble Watch

Pebble Watch

I’ve admitted before that I’m a second-wave adopter and am not someone who wants to have the latest technology the instant it’s introduced. That’s probably why I felt no need (just yet anyway) for the Pebble – a smart watch that connects with a smartphone via Bluetooth to give you alerts about incoming calls, emails and messages. And did I mention you can also download watch faces? You can.

Some folks may love having the ability to access technology this way. I, on the other hand, think being able to wear my Twitter feed on my wrist 24/7 is excessive. Still, the idea behind Pebble’s inception and creation fascinates me.

Thanks to the crowd funding platform Kickstarter,  people around the world and the web pledged $10 million to launch the Pebble project. To date, Pebble is Kickstarter’s most funded project.

The Pebble project was a bit unusual in that it raised so much money, but crowd funding is becoming a way to make new developments come to life. And not just in the arts or creative realms, of which the majority of Kickstarter focus on, but also in science and technology.

In fact, a crowd funding platform dedicated to healthcare innovations hit the scene in 2012. Medstartr, founded by Alex Fair, is described as a crowd funding and acceleration platform that helps bring healthcare innovations to life. You may have heard of a few of its success stories.

Dave Chase was able to raise funds to help launch Avado, a patient relationship manager that allows physicians to streamline their communication with patients by connecting with them via secure technology and lets patients track their health information, schedule appointments and receive medical records from their providers. According to GeekWire, Chase was able to raise $1 million in seed money (from various sources) to further develop Avado.

Regina Holliday speaking at Corepoint Connect.

Regina Holliday speaking at Corepoint Connect 2013.

Another Medstartr success story is Regina Holliday’s Walking Gallery Project. Holliday is a patients’ rights advocate who paints their medical stories on the backs of jackets, suit coats and lab coats. Each coat tells a patient’s personal story and is used to raise awareness when worn at medical conferences or other places that we are really working for patients and they each have a personal story to tell.

There’s something very cooperative and communal about this method of innovation. Someone can have a great idea and rather than finding venture capitalists, investors, or going into debt, they can throw it out there on the Internet and have strangers pitch-in money to see the idea come to life.

And, as you’ll see if you poke around Medstart, many projects don’t need anywhere near $10 million to be effective. A recent piece on National Public Radio (people who know a thing or two about crowd funding aka pledge drives), focused on how scientists were using crowd funding on Indiegogo to raise money to study everything from E. coli in mice guts to ecology. The uBiome project mentioned in the piece involves mapping an individual’s microbiome (the collection of

Regina Holliday artwork displaying a health IT "alphabet soup."

Regina Holliday artwork displaying a health IT “alphabet soup.”

microbes specific to your body) to discover what specific microbes are living in a person’s body. The person then can be kept abreast of research that relates to their findings. The uBiome project’s initial goal was $100,000 but it made $351,193 through crowd funding through Indiegogo.

Have you ever had an idea for creating, developing or improving technology? We’ve all had those, “I could really use something that did xyz,” moments along with a few, “I wish this ______ did this.” Perhaps you thought launching your idea was out of your reach. Now, crowd funding might be an option to help you get your health IT ideas off the ground, or at least give them a nudge in the right direction. Who knows, you may be able to spark the motivation of people around the world to contribute to the next great disruptive innovation in healthcare.


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Jennifer Thew, RN, MSJ

Jennifer Thew, RN, MSJ, is a registered nurse and journalist who has covered healthcare issues and how they relate to the nursing profession. She began her nursing career as a neuroscience nurse at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and then transitioned to journalism after receiving a degree from Roosevelt University in Chicago. She has edited and written numerous articles on a wide range of nursing and healthcare topics like Accountable Care Organizations, evidence-based practice and telehealth.

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